Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 1; Brandenburg Concerto No. 2; Brandenburg Concerto No. 3; Brandenburg Concerto No. 4; Brandenburg Concerto No. 5; Brandenburg Concerto No. 6

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: L’OISEAU-LYRE
WORKS: Brandenburg Concerto No. 1; Brandenburg Concerto No. 2; Brandenburg Concerto No. 3; Brandenburg Concerto No. 4; Brandenburg Concerto No. 5; Brandenburg Concerto No. 6
PERFORMER: New London Consort/Philip Pickett
CATALOGUE NO: 440 675-2 DDD
Pickett’s fertile imagination has hit on an extraordinarily fresh approach. The Margrave of Brandenburg received not a set of parts but a score. Like a ‘Vanitas’ painting with skull, pleasures – books, music, food – reminders of death – candles, the Reaper’s scythe – it is to be ‘read’, its symbols interpreted in terms of rhetorical and allegorical conventions.

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Each concerto has a ‘locus topicus’, a starting point for its subject. No. 1 opens with a triumphal entry, Roman cornu blaring out fanfares – never before have you heard such rasping horns! The persuasive powers of rhetoric are translated to thoughtful and inventive phrasing: repeated figures have a strong sense of direction; extensions of them seem logical and inevitable. They often have boundless energy – the gyrating harmony of ‘the dance of the heavens’ in 3, the manic violin playing of Pavlo Beznosiuk at the end of 4.

Occasionally the imagery contradicts the concerto spirit: rhythmic drive interrupted for allegory’s sake, and never quite retrieved; slow movements becoming metrically quirky in their expressiveness.

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Scholars will now delight in testing Pickett’s reasoning. Their conclusions are less important than the impact Pickett has on the music, and on our attitude. Like it or hate it, you must hear it. George Pratt